To whet your appetite for The Pitch's annual Best of Kansas City issue in October, we're celebrating our favorite 50 dishes from restaurants, bakeries, coffeehouses, bars, drugstores, saloons and other metro joints. Until October 7, we'll feature one outstanding dish or beverage every weekday, starting today. Agree with us or make your own suggestions -- just don't come between us and these 50 fantastic things to eat or drink.
Which brings us to the best chocolate malt in the metro.
Number 50: The chocolate malt from Fox's Drug Store
If you won't take our word that the chocolate malt hand-scooped and blended at Fox's Drug Store (10004 East 63rd Street in Raytown) -- one of the last pharmacy soda fountains left in the metro -- is the best, maybe you'll take the word of Kansas City's oldest living soda jerk: Walt Bodine's. The 89-year-old veteran broadcaster started his career as a teen soda jerk at his dad's all-night drugstore in midtown KC back in the mid-1930s. He loves the malts at Fox's Drugstore.
The $3.50 malts here -- they cost 50 cents more than an ordinary milkshake because malt powder is more expensive these days -- are made with great care by longtime fountain employee Everett White. He can take as long as 15 minutes to concoct the perfect malted creation, blending ice cream, milk and malt powder into a silky, creamy, luscious cold drink. After filling up a soda glass, he also serves the frosty metal blending container with the beverage. Don't try to rush Everett, now -- he can get cantankerous.
Fox's Drug Store has had a soda fountain since 1939, when the original owners, Francis and Wandella Fox, opened their business. When the gas station adjacent to their store became available in 1957, the Foxes tore it down and expanded their business to feature a bigger, more comfortable fountain area. In the heyday of the pharmacy, the soda fountain stayed open until 11 p.m. By the 1980s, though, the fountain's hours ended each day at 4 p.m., and today Everett starts winding down at 2.
Of course, he's been open since 8 a.m. for breakfast (pancakes are served only on Wednesdays). Asked if anyone has ever ordered a chocolate malt for breakfast, Everett said yes: "But most people really prefer coffee."